Because there are no symptoms of high cholesterol, the best way to figure out if you have it is to get regular screenings through a test called the fasting lipid or lipoprotein profile.

Fasting Lipid Profile

Also called a lipoprotein profile, a fasting lipid profile measures the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglycerides in your blood.

In order to get an accurate reading, your doctor will generally ask you not to eat or drink anything for nine to 12 hours before the test. Foods, beverages, and certain medications can all interfere with your cholesterol numbers.

During the test, your doctor or a lab technician will draw a small amount of blood from your arm with a needle. It will then be sent to a lab to be analyzed. Your doctor should call you with the results in about a week’s time. If you don’t hear from him or her, don’t assume everything is normal. It’s always best to follow up with a phone call.

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends that everyone over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol tested at least once every five years.

Some risk factors can increase how frequently you need to get the test. Those may include:

  • Past test results with a total cholesterol of 200 mg/dL or more
  • Being over the age of 45 for men or over the age of 50 for women
  • Past test results indicating that your “good” HDL cholesterol is less than 40 mg/dL
  • Having other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or a family history of heart disease

Work with your doctor to determine how often you should have your cholesterol levels checked.